Posted in Science & Nature

The Oldest Tree

In 1964, a graduate student named Donald Currey was studying the history of glaciers in Nevada, USA. He came across some bristlecone pine trees, which he suspected may give him some clues about the Ice Age. This is because previously, another scientist had discovered similar bristlecone pines nearby in California that dated between 3000-5000 years old.

So Currey decided to sample some of these trees to determine their ages. He thought that if he could show that the trees uphill were much younger than the trees at the base, it may prove that glaciers expanded down the mountain and pushed the trees back downhill.

Currey came across a particularly old-looking tree. He got permission from the Forest Service first, then cut the tree down to count its growth rings – the most accurate way to figure out how old a tree is. As the tree’s bark changes in a predictable fashion, a tree will gain one ring for every year of its life. An interesting point is that trees are often dated nowadays by taking a core sample instead of cutting it down (and thus killing it). It is uncertain why Currey and the Forest Service opted to cut the tree down instead.

After counting the rings of this tree, Currey realised that the tree (dubbed “Prometheus” by local naturalists) was 4844 years old – the oldest tree in existence in the world. Well, it was until it was cut down.

More modern analysis of Prometheus’ remains revealed that the tree was likely closer to just over 5000 years old at the time of its death, which makes Prometheus the oldest known tree and (non-clonal) organism in recorded history.

As expected, when Currey published his results, there was a massive outcry. In the name of understanding nature better, he inadvertently killed the world’s oldest tree.

Since the demise of Prometheus, another tree by the name of Methuselah has taken the crown of “oldest tree in the world”, at the age of 4852 as of 2020.

The lesson here is clear: before cutting a tree down, check that you are not accidentally killing the oldest tree in the world.

Methuselah, the oldest living tree in the world
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Posted in Science & Nature

History Of The Earth

The Earth has been around for a good 4.6 billion years. Let us compress the long time from the Earth’s birth to today (2012) into one year to put everything in perspective.

The Earth’s history starts on January 1, 00:00:00. The Earth is a hard sphere, barren as any other planet. Incessant wind and rain erode away the barren mountains and tectonic forces create new ones. Nothing much happens for the next three months. Then, around the start of April, life begins in the form of bacteria. Over the course of the next few months, the bacteria divide and mutate, slowly forming new life forms that are multicellular. However, all life on Earth are still in the oceans.

Life on land only starts in the end of November, when plants begin to settle on land. Plants expertly take the abundant carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen. By early December, the oceans are teeming with fish, some of which adapt to living on land by developing lungs. These become the first amphibians. Insects also populate the land and become one of the most diverse types of life.

In December 12, reptiles evolve and the land is ruled by dinosaurs, but only for 9 days until they are wiped off the face of the Earth by a meteorite on December 20. Mammals quickly take the niche left by dinosaurs, populating the entire world. Even at this late time, there are no signs of humans.

December 31, humans have still not arrived on Earth. They only appear around 8pm, where the first hominids venture on to the plains of Africa. At 10pm, the Ice Age begins and the Earth is covered by a thick white sheet of ice. The ice comes and goes three more times. At 11:59pm, human civilisation begins as cities begin to rise. 22 seconds before the end of the year, the Egyptians build their pyramids. More monuments arise within seconds. At 11:59:47pm, Jesus teaches the people to love one another, until he is killed a millisecond later. In the last second of the year (about 150 years), humanity: has two major world wars, take to the skies, create the nuclear bomb that can wipe out all life on Earth and even step foot on the Moon.

We may like to think that we have made a significant impact in the history of the Earth, but we have only existed for an infinitesimally small fraction of the history. We are but a dot on the grand scheme of natural history.

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Posted in Science & Nature

Marriageable Age

When is the right time to get married? According to Professor Tony Dooley, you can use an equation to find the right age for proposing. To do this, take “the youngest age you want to marry” and minus it from “the oldest age you want to marry” then times 0.368. Add this number to the youngest age. For example, if you would consider getting married from age 21 onwards and at the latest 30, your ideal age to marry is: (30 – 21) x 0.368 = 3.312 + 21 = 24.312, thus about 24 years and 4 months old. 

This equation is very practical as it is a modified version of equations used in financial and medical fields. This equation is used to maximise profit while minimising loss using mathematics. It may not sound romantic, but according to Professor Dooley, after you reach the calculated age you should not waste time and ask the hand of the next person you date in marriage.

(Sourcehttp://soulofautumn87.deviantart.com/art/All-We-Need-Is-A-4-Letter-Word-111260511)

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Posted in Psychology & Medicine

Birthday Cake

The ritual of blowing out candles on one’s birthday is interesting as it shows the characteristics of human beings very well. This ritual shows that the person can make fire while reminding themselves they can extinguish it with one breath. It is a ritual that helps a baby develop into a responsible, social being that is capable of controlling fire. On the other hand, an old person being so breathless that they cannot even blow out a candle signifies that it is time for them to be socially excluded by the active population.

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